Alimony or Spousal support is often awarded in dissolution of marriage actions. There are two basic questions that must be posed when determining whether alimony should be awarded:
- Does the person requesting alimony need support from the other party?
- Does the person who is being asked to pay alimony have the “ability to pay” support to the other party?
If the answer to both questions is “yes”, the amount of the alimony and the period of time it is to be paid, must still be determined.
There are several different forms of alimony under Florida Statutes:
Long Term Marriages
In long term marriages (more than 17 years) alimony may be awarded permanently. Permanent alimony is taxable to the recipient as income and deductible to the paying spouse, unless the parties agree otherwise. Permanent alimony terminates when the recipient spouse marries, dies or is involved in a supportive relationship.
Medium Term Marriages
In medium term marriages of 7 years to 17 years in duration, the same “need” and “ability to pay” analysis applies, but there is no presumption in favor of permanent alimony. It is still possible to get permanent alimony, but the standard of proof is higher and courts are more likely to award durational alimony instead. Durational alimony is exactly what is sounds like. It is alimony that is paid for a specific duration of time, but it cannot exceed the length of the marriage.
Short Term Marriages
In short term marriages of under 7 years in duration, once again, the “need” and ‘ability to pay” analysis must be applied. There is a presumption against permanent periodic alimony and courts will not award it unless there is an extraordinary circumstance such as a serious disability. To get permanent periodic alimony in a short term marriage, it is necessary to prove that no other form of alimony will suffice to meet the needs of the spouse requesting support. In short term marriages, the court usually awards durational alimony, bridge the gap alimony or temporary alimony.
Bridge the Gap Alimony
Bridge the gap alimony is short term alimony to help a party transition from married life to single life. It can be awarded in short, medium and even long term marriages depending on the circumstances of the parties but is limited to a maximum period of two years.
Rehabilitative alimony is another form of alimony that is awarded for the purpose of paying for the education and/or retraining of a needy spouse who has been out of the job market for some time or who has never worked. It is intended to restore or improve the spouse’s ability to be self-supporting.
Temporary alimony is very short term alimony usually for the purpose of providing support during the time the divorce case is pending. Courts have the broadest authority to award temporary support and often do so to ensure that the parties are able to support themselves and their children while the divorce case is pending.
Alimony is a complicated area of family law that is often litigated. There are no charts or calculators that can adequately determine the amount of alimony you may be entitled to receive or to pay, because there is no exact monetary formula. Despite what you may read on the internet and despite the existence of “alimony calculators” on other Florida law websites, be aware these are purely marketing tools to give an answer where there is no easy answer.
The analysis of any alimony case requires an in depth analysis of each of the following questions:
- Does the spouse requesting alimony have a need for support?
- Does the spouse from whom the alimony is requested have the ability to pay the support?
- Is this a long term marriage? medium term marriage? short term marriage?
- Analyze the factors under 61.08
- The standard of living established during the marriage.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
- The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
- The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.
- The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
- The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.
- The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment.
- All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.
- Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
- What is the income of the needy spouse?
- What is the income of the spouse being requested to pay alimony?
- How much support does the spouse need? How did he or she arrive at this figure? Is the need in keeping with the standard of living of the parties during the marriage?
- How much support is the paying spouse able to pay? What are the reasonable expenses and lifestyle of the paying spouse?
- If alimony is to be paid, what kind of alimony is appropriate?
- How long will it be paid?
- Is the payment of alimony meant to be deductible to the payor?
- Is the receipt of alimony meant to be reported as income by the recipient?
As you can see, the analysis in alimony cases does not involve the mere application of a percentage of income or other simple mathematical formula. Neither is alimony awarded to a spouse as an entitlement or right, just because of the years of marriage, for example, or one spouse’s infidelity or monetary malfeasance.
If you are involved in an alimony dispute, it is wise to have counsel to represent you. This is a complicated area of the law with many pitfalls. We have experience handling alimony cases and we can help.
Contact the Law Offices of Audrey A. Jefferis, P.A. for more information about how alimony affects you.